Bed Bugs – How can you tell if you have them?

How do you get bed bugs?

Depending on your situation, you may be glad to know that having bed bugs is nothing to do with how clean your house is; so if you do have them, don’t worry, it is no consequence of your personal hygiene. The truth is that bedbugs can be picked up anywhere, in the most expensive hotel, the freshest of gyms or in the cleanest of homes. This is so because bed bugs are rather like hitchhikers who attach themselves to anything and everything; regardless of who you are or how clean you may be.


How can you tell if you have bed bugs?

Most people assume that bed bugs are too small to be seen with the naked eye. This is simply not true as the average adult will be around the size and shape of an apple seed. Thankfully there are several ways to check to see if your home has been invaded by the insect.

  • First of all, check yourself for bites as they will probably be the first thing that you notice. A lot of people quite easily assume that the cause is due to fleas, check your mattress for dark spots to make sure.
  • Dark spots are the waste matter of the bed bug. Consisting of blood, faecal matter and shed skin (they do this six times before even becoming adults), also check in nooks and crevices of the bed as well as your linen.
  • Hunt them down with a flashlight! Like many entities in the insect world, they have specific hunting times and like to come out early in the morning, around an hour or so before dawn. Even if you do not find them however, it does not mean that they are not there.
  • If you want to catch them for sure, lay down double sided sticky tape for a couple of days. Although you won’t catch them all this way (unless you want to be excessive), a reduced number of bed bugs is always a better number of bed bugs.

Otherwise, most people detect the smell of bed bugs, which in itself, is quite sweet (some say like raspberries) though with a distinctly mouldy odour. If you have teenagers in your house, it may be an idea to remove them first so that you can distinguish between the smells.


What to do if you do have bed bugs and how do you get rid of them?

Unfortunately, there is no straightforward way of getting rid of them. As they do not purely reside in beds, you may need to search every part of a house to totally eradicate them. Aside from the couple of primitive methods mentioned above, unfortunately, hiring a professional may be the only way to get rid of them for good.

Checking with your council may be a good way of finding an accredited pest controller that is a member of the British Pest Control Association. Some council’s within the UK may offer you services for free, whether you are a council tenant or not. Depending on which council you are with, treatment can cost between £20 and £170. Pest controllers can usually rid you of the insects within two treatments.

  • If your bed linen is infested, wash them at 60 degrees or above or put them into a dryer on a hot setting for more than 30 minutes.
  • Dismantle your bed and inspect every crevice, seam and joint. Use a vacuum cleaner to suck up any bugs that you see.
  • If the mattress is heavily infested, do be prepared to throw it away.


What do they feed on?

The only answer to this question is ‘you’. By inserting two hollow tubes into the surface of your skin they inject you with a form of anaesthetic with one and harvest your blood with the other. Generally, one session will last around five minutes before scurrying off into a hiding place. Unfortunately (depending on which way you look at it) they surface every five to ten days, so it may be hard to locate them. Amazingly, they can survive for around eighteen months without feeding, which is an outstanding length of time for any living thing. You can distinguish a hungry bed bug from one that has just been fed due to the fact that they will be shaped differently (a fed one will look more elongated than its hungry counterpart).


What about travelling?

Obviously, travelling to a foreign country will heighten the risk of bed bugs; however, there are certain things you can do to help rid yourself of the problem.

  • Check all surfaces of a hotel before you set down. Make sure to look out for blood spots and dark areas (bed bugs exist in the classiest of establishments).
  • Elevate your luggage so that it is off of the ground. Remember to check all of your baggage when you get home.
  • If you are staying in a tent or find yourself travelling, try a silk sleeping bag which is manufactured to keep the pests at bay.